SAILING LIFE JACKET ESSENTIALS TO KEEP YOU SAFE

How a life jacket works, the types and differences, and necessary precautions to take when sailing
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Life jacket introduction

1. THE PURPOSE OF LIFE JACKETS

A life jacket worn on board is mandatory. In the event of falling overboard, a lifejacket is designed to keep the head face-up above the water even if the person is unconscious. This is as important as wearing a seatbelt in a car. Failure to do so can cost a life.

life jacket explanation

2. LIFE JACKET SIZE IMPORTANCE

A lifejacket must be correctly sized for every single person including children and must be worn at all times when sailing.

There must be enough life jackets for everyone on board relative to a person’s size.

Sizes vary by brand and model so check the manufacturer’s recommendations to get the right size, and try it on before sailing.

lifejacket size

3. HOW TO PROPERLY FIT A LIFE JACKET

Adjust the straps and check the fit by placing your thumbs under the shoulder straps and pull up. If the life jacket is too big it will lift above your ears which means it is not the correct size.

On the other hand, if the vest is too small for you, it will be difficult to fasten when the straps are completely let out.

Children’s jackets should also have a collar to support the head and a strap between the legs, so that the jacket doesn’t slip off the child. Make sure it is fastened prior to entering the water.

life jacket fit

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Life jacket types and differences

4. SOLID AND INFLATABLE LIFE JACKETS

life jacket types

The two main types of life jackets are: Solid and Inflatable.

Solid ones have a floating material inside, while inflatable ones use a gas cylinder to inflate when in water.

Most often inflatable ones are used because of their convenience. They do not hinder movement while working with sails and ropes.

inflatable life vest

They have a built-in inflation device with a compressed gas cylinder, which will automatically inflate the jacket when in water. A life vest equipped with a whistle and flashlight is preferable, so the person will be able to signal for help.

5. IMPORTANT SAFETY INFORMATION

personal flotation device (PFD) is not a lifejacket

⚠️ Note that a Personal Flotation Device (PFD) is not the same as a Life Jacket – it will not turn your body face up in an emergency. So it can be used to sail in shallow waters but must not be used in open sea.

solid lifejacket

⚠️ When using a Solid life jacket, before jumping into the water, wrap your arms around it and hold it tightly to your chest. Otherwise, the direction of your body into the water versus the flotation of the vest will create an opposing pull which could injure your neck.

Life jacket usage and storage

6. HOW TO USE A LIFE JACKET

Most life jackets inflate automatically when in water, although they can be inflated manually by pulling a toggle, or through a special tube in case the automatic device fails to work.

Life jackets should be regularly checked for proper condition and gas cylinders must be replaced according to manufacturer’s guidelines.

Life vest iflation / lifejacket

7. LIFE JACKET MAINTENANCE

Maintenance includes:

  • Store life vest in a dry area and out of direct heat sources;
  • Avoid proximity to chemicals or fuels;
  • Before using, inspect straps, buckles and zippers, and replace if damaged.
life vest maintenance

In conclusion

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